Updated: November 18, 2018

Fisheries Complex in Marigot, Dominica with Sargassum Bloom in 2018

This past week, on November 15, OECS held a Blue Economy Seminar in Dominica. Yet, the vast majority of people on island were unaware of this seminal activity. How is it possible that discussions on plans for an economic approach with potential to benefit the entire island is being stifled by the Dominica Administration? Why is the current Administration being so indifferent to a plan for sustainable economic growth that has been endorsed by the OECS, World Bank, the majority of Commonwealth Countries, the Caribbean Development Bank and the United Nations?  The reason(s) is/are unknown. Only the current governing Administration can provide answers to this myopic behavior!

Emergence of the Blue Economy as a potential for growth in the Caribbean and other nations with significant coastal mass has emerged in the last three to five years or so. The concept of a Blue Economy grew out of the more widely known Green Economy. In the Blue Economy, a nation's economic activity is aligned with its ocean capacity; this permits economic growth while simultaneously enhancing ocean conservation. The UN Conference on Trade and Development identified 29 states worldwide which are uniquely suited to development of this economic model. Interestingly, 10 of these states are in the Caribbean. What is it about these Caribbean States which permits so many of them to be poised to gain maximal benefits from this emerging economic construct. We will highlight some important facts about this regions.

1) The Caribbean waters (Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic waters surrounding Caribbean Islands) comprise 1% of the of the global ocean area. Yet,  based on 2012 estimates, the Caribbean Ocean economy generated US$53 billion dollars in gross revenues for the Caribbean islands.

2) Sources of the aforementioned revenue include harnessing fishing resources, aquaculture, extraction of mineral oil and natural gas and tourism.

3)  Caribbean Waters account for about US$500 billion yearly of economic activity, representing about 15% of the world ocean economy.

These are impressive figures but, these economic activities are not without cost to the ocean environment. Consequences include over-fishing, environmental decay and pollution.  The Blue Economy approach aims to reduce impact on global oceans which provide consistent, renewable economic activity for island and coastal states. A practical example for the region relates to recent seaweed problem that challenged the region for 2018. For instance, in Marigot, Dominica  and other regions around the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea and gulf of Mexico, fishermen were unable to go out to sea, birds were rendered immobile and unable to effectively fed on fish because of this 'nuisance' seaweed overgrowth. In addition, tourism and beach activities were impacted; see photo above.

If methods were available to harvest this bounty and generate new consumer products, this would be a win-win scenario for the birds, fishermen and local / regional economy. World bodies are focused on The Blue Economy because it is has the potential to lift millions of people out of poverty, diversify the economy of many island and coastal states and, if executed properly, provide sustainable growth for years to come. Dominica will do well to embrace this new development thrust.